Thursday, May 31, 2007

Seven Little Known Things About Me

I was tagged on this more than a month ago, so here goes.

1. My first boyfriend, RF, was a total geek who I didn’t like at all, but I only went out with him because my sorta’-friends/ neighbors Jacki and Roy had been going out forever. I was in seventh grade and SO sick of sitting in Roy’s basement listening to Zeppelin and not watching them make out, so I said yes to RF. It lasted less than a month.

2. I cry excessively at movies. Happy things make me weep. Sad things make me bawl. The first time I saw Terms of Endearment I was getting dirty looks from others in the theater because I was sobbing so loudly.

3. My iPod’s running playlist has songs by both Kanye West and Barry Manilow. That’s what happens when a Jew grows up too close to the ‘hood.

4. I like ketchup on my mashed potatoes. I like it even better if there’s some cooked spinach mixed in.

5. I can only chew a piece of gum until the flavor runs out, so if/when I buy a pack of gum for a flight, the whole thing is gone before we land. I spit out the flavor-spent pieces into the barf bag.

6. Lately I’m so excited about the shadow of a deltoid muscle, starting to peek out from beneath 40+ years of flab, that I find myself pushing up my sleeves and stealing extra glances in the mirror. If I ever became buff, I may be downright impossible to live with.

7. I slept with a teddy bear until my wedding night. Then I married something soft and fuzzy and the rest is history.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Something Got Me Thinking About My Baby

12 years, 6 months, and 19 days ago (give or take), a new life was entrusted to me. She was mine even before she was born of course, but my only responsibilities for the first nine months of motherhood were my own proper nutrition and hydration along with a daily brisk walk. Piece of cake. But on that afternoon, 12 years, 6 months, and 19 days ago, my responsibility increased exponentially. I had no idea how to be a mother. I wasn’t ready to be a mother (although I was so very ready to give birth) and they sent me home without an instruction manual.

Fortunately, my daughter was born with an itinerary, and she knew how to have her demands met. She still does. Back then it was easy. Feed me and hold me. Now her needs are more complicated. Teach me about gamma rays for my Science test tomorrow. Help me understand what’s happening to my body. Tell me what to do when the kids at school are mean. Explain to me why I like some boys but they don’t notice me. Show me how to learn about things like wars and terrorists but to not be scared.

Ah, the days of feed me and hold me. I could follow her lead, and through a combination of intuition (her daddy’s and mine) and her instinct for survival we made it through the early years. She grew and became stronger and mobile. I certainly didn’t think so then, during the long, sleepless night of infancy and toddlerhood, but those were the easy years. Today she still needs to be fed and to be held. We have that covered. When it comes to the other stuff, I haven’t figured some of those things out for myself. I was entrusted with that life on that afternoon 12 years, 6 months and 19 days ago and I can’t even answer her questions. Maybe we can figure out the answers together.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Endless Possibilities

Usually I drive the convertible, the HOT car. After all, I’m a HOT mama age 40, and I deserve to whip around town in my HOT automobile. Wind through my hair, sun on my skin, I do HOT things, like grocery shopping and dropping off the dry cleaning. On Monday I let the spouse take the HOT car and I had to drive the minivan. Depleted of fuel, filthy inside and out, and in need of an oil change, I decided to take it over to the lube and wash place.

Waiting under the awning, a tall young man with a very familiar face approached me. What an awkward feeling. I know it was a former student, but I taught him 8 years ago, when he was a fourth grader. Here stood before me a strapping guy with a hauntingly familiar face. A face I don’t forget, but the names sometimes elude me. I told him some things I remembered about him: his brother who always got in more trouble than he did, how he loved to play percussion instruments in music class, how his cursive writing made my eyes hurt. Clearly I remembered him, but not necessarily his name.

He finally told me his name, and I asked this soon-to-be high school graduate what he plans to do with the rest of his life starting after next Friday’s ceremony. He’ll turn 18 that day too, he told me, and come October he's going to become a daddy. His “baby mama” girl’s picture was the screensaver on his cell phone. She’s cute, I told him, and erroneously asked how long they were going together. Wrong. He was only “with” his baby mama one time, but they get along really great. He’s even going with her for the sonogram appointment and he gets to name the baby if it’s a boy. Oy. TMI.

This bright, clever, young boy, as I remembered him, had a devil streak at age 10, and evidently that had blossomed. He told me that he had gotten into some trouble, so he’d be working for a while before he started college for cosmetology. Working construction, then part time for tips as a dry boy at the car wash, he’d support his new baby and put off school for a while.

What could I say? I’d wished for more for you? As your 4th grade teacher, I envisioned endless possibilities for the futures of my young charges, and this was something less? Could I tell him that he was making mistakes? That his failure to go on with his education straight away may plague him throughout his adult life? That sharing a child with a baby mama was tough on the baby, the mama, and you, and how-could-you-do –this- to –your- life? Of course not.

I told him to take good care of himself, of his brain, and of this little baby. I told him that I was happy to see him alive, well, and taking responsibility. I told him that I really liked being his teacher so many years ago. What I didn’t tell him was that that I was mourning the loss of the ten-year-old boy with the wiggly cursive and the devil streak, the one with endless possibilities ahead of him.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Teacher Teacher

Going on 6 years now, I am a teacher without a class. A teacher teacher. It is a curious trade, this “educational consultant” business. I travel in circles with the businessmen of the pinstripe variety. Sure, I’ve earned the frequent flyer miles and the upgrades, but as soon as we leave the airport our paths divide. You won’t find a gentleman in a starched shirt holding a sign with my name on it, his long black car waiting to whisk me away to a luxurious penthouse hotel suite. I lug my bags onto the rent-a-heap-o-crap shuttle, and pick up the pile of lug nuts du jour. Mapquest, Verizon Navigator, and a prayer find me to the nearest hotel with a number in its name. Doing my best to ignore the mysterious hairs on the bathroom floor, I settle in for the night. Sometimes I’ll treat myself to a Frosty as a nightcap. My fellow upgrade-mates are probably knocking back some Black Label as I slurp the last of my treat.

In the morning, the pinstripe/cufflink crew gather around long polished tables and sit in big leather chairs. Underlings refill their coffee cups as they plan and deal, make the sale of a lifetime, or whatever they do in those big rooms. I meet up with the denim/embroidered jumper set (love the teacher uniform), and plan, deal and attempt to make the sale of a lifetime. Thank God I love the work. I love helping people to love what I loved most about my time in the classroom. At day’s end, exhausted, I navigate my way back to the airport, submit my dirty laundry and tired body to whatever whim the TSA has in mind and wait for the chance to will myself to sleep 25,000 feet into the air.

It beats making an honest living.